Special meeting today on Cambria emergency water supply project

Update expected on plans for brackish water desalination facility

ktanner@thetribunenews.comApril 17, 2014 

A well on San Simeon Creek Road property owned by Cambria’s services district presumably could provide enough brackish water for an emergency water-supply project, likely a portable desalination unit, according to a report a consultant is to present at a special meeting today, April 17. 

Jerry Gruber, general manager of the Cambria Community Services District, confirmed that Tuesday in an email interview. He wrote that the consultant firm “CDM Smith will be discussing the results of the modeling,” which “shows that the system can be operational within the boundaries of the CCSD property.”

The meeting starts at 4 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.

The district hired CDM Smith January 30 for the $175,000 geo-hydrological modeling of the lower San Simeon Creek aquifer, part of a study about how viable the district’s property would be as a proposed site for a brackish-water well. Brackish water is a blend of salt and fresh water that often occurs near where a creek meets the sea.

The study was to be done as speedily as possible without sacrificing accuracy, district staffers said, if Cambrians were to avoid the drought-triggered time when the aquifers might run out of potable (drinking-quality) water from CCSD’s existing wells along San Simeon and Santa Rosa creeks.

The governor declared a state of emergency Jan. 17, due to the state’s record dry conditions and dwindling water supplies. The same day, a state water board’s notice said if a community is in a water-short area, “you should be looking into alternative water supplies for your water needs.”

At CCSD’s January meeting, the board also approved a separate initial expenditure of $500,000 for design and permitting, and to develop contracts to buy and installed “required water treatment equipment to provide an emergency water supply.” That money would come from an interest-free loan from the district’s general fund reserves. 

The town is under drought-emergency restrictions to stretch the supply as long as possible. Community members have reined in their water use, bringing Cambria’s water use down by more than a third, compared to last year. Demand on district wells in March was 34.9 acre feet, a 36 percent reduction from 54.72 acre feet in March 2013, according to CCSD stats. 

Modest recent rains have helped, too, but district officials say those storms only delayed the probability that Cambria’s current supply may not last until rain starts again.

Gruber said he won’t be “making any recommendations” during the Board of Directors’ April 17 meeting. That session is solely so CDM Smith can update the board and the community on “the status of the emergency water-supply project.”

He didn’t confirm what that project might include or when it might start providing more drinking water to the community. However, Gruber did say he’d asked the consultant “to prepare a timeline regarding the project.” 

  The district would need permits from the county and state to construct such a project, even on an emergency basis.

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